Teaching Children Through Stories

Ai Lian Lim
 


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Teaching children is not an easy task. And yet, it is one of the most important responsibilities you hold as parents. It cannot and must not be delegated to others. But then, you may feel loss, inadequate or ill prepared to teach. Looking at the countless programs and methods available in the child education market, you may feel like you need a PhD in this area if you are to succeed. Then there are the other excuses too like “I have to work and don't have the time, ” or “I don't have the patience. ” Well, here is your wake up call. Teaching can be simple, effective and doable. Reading to your children and using stories to teach is a technique that is within the capabilities of everyone. When we read to our children, we do not confine them to academic excellence but also extend into their emotional and behavioral learning.

The following are 5 reasons why using stories to teach is effective:
1. The child doesn't feel threatened. It's not another lecture.
When we read to our children, we are able to address a situation in a non-threatening way. What do I mean by threatening? Let's take a look at some examples of habitual phrases we tend to use when “teaching our lesson”:

  • “You shouldn't lie. ”
  • “You are so messy. ”
  • “You shouldn't be scared. You are just being silly. ”
  • “You are not listening to me. ”
Usually this is done in a blaming or angry tone of voice. When we finger point and use the word “you”, children hear negative and the situation becomes tense. Some may even become defensive. Put yourselves in their shoes. If someone were to start attacking you with words, would you be in a teachable mood? I would think not. Rather than focusing on the solutions to the problems, children are focusing on their feelings of anger, hurt, fear etc. . . that they are experiencing at that moment.

Using stories to teach, we take out the blame and place less emphasis on the problem. We talk and discuss solutions and speak positively. So instead of a lecture, we now have a healthy discussion.

2. Working on “prevention” and “cure”.
When we use stories to teach, we can help our children work through situations they are currently experiencing. It also allows us to mentally prepare them for situations that may arise. Children gain experience vicariously through the stories we read. Children are able to learn from vicarious experience just as well as they learn from real ones. The only difference is that this kind of learning takes place in the safety of your home. For example, you could use a book about being bullied to teach your child what to do if and when they face such a situation.

3. The child has a model to follow. They identify with the characters in the book.
Children make connections with the characters of the stories you relate. You can help them further by asking questions such as: Is there anyone in the book who reminds you of yourself?

  • How is that character like you?
  • Which character would you like to be?
  • Why would you want to be that character?
  • Relate the lesson to their own lives and experiences: Like the little pig who build a house of bricks (in the story of the Three Little Pigs), what would you do make your house strong?

After reading the story of The Little Engine That Could, my daughter began to identify herself with the Little Blue Engine who said “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. ” It served to be a good model for her to follow at times when she felt inadequate.

4. Children remember stories better than they remember reprimands. It's a good way to catch their attention.
In Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain (Addison-Wesley, 1994), Renate and Geoffery Caine states, “There is strong reason to believe that organization of information in story form is a natural brain process. . . In a nutshell, neuroscience is discovering that the brain is wired to organize, retain and access information through story. If that is true, then teaching through story means that students will be able to remember what is taught, access that information, and apply it more readily. ”

Maybe this is why children can rattle off dialogs from their favorite shows but can't remember what mom said about picking up their toys.

5. Allows for critical thinking.
Stories are a safe way for children to explore emotions and behaviors. A book like Jane Simmons’ Come Along, Daisy, encourages children to think about the importance of keeping close to parents when out and about . Use thought provoking questions that will lead them to identify problems and feelings such as “How did Daisy get separated from her mother?” and “What was Daisy feeling when she found her mother missing?” The best kind of teaching you can employ is to teach our children to be authors of solutions. Ask leading questions that will underscore the point of the story such as “How can Daisy avoid getting lost in the future?” What a boost it will be to your children to know they can come up with such genius solutions.

Reading and sharing stories with your children can help you become a better parent. It opens the channel of communication and strengthens the parent-child bond. The magic of stories can be a powerful influence for good. Does that magic exist in your home? Start reading to your child today.

Article written by Lim Ai Lian, owner of http://valuebookshop.com , a premier specialty bookshop for parents and children in Malaysia and Singapore.

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